Archives

City Of Refuge

As we entered a town in Australia, we were greeted by a sign that declared: “We welcome all who are seeking refuge and asylum.” This kind of welcome seems to resonate with the Old Testament concept of the cities of refuge. In the Old Testament era, cities of refuge (Num. 35:6) were established to be a safe haven for people who had accidentally killed someone and were needing protection. God had the people establish such cities to provide that refuge.

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Just As I Am

Good memories flooded my mind as I sat in a concert. The group’s leader had just introduced the song they were about to sing: “Just As I Am.” I remembered how years ago at the end of his sermons my pastor would ask people to come forward while we sang that song, indicating they would like to receive the forgiveness Christ offers for their sins.

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Family Trademarks

The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.

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Confident Access

Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island located about a half-mile off the coast of Normandy, France. For centuries it has been the site of an abbey and monastery that has attracted religious pilgrims. Until the construction of a causeway, it was notorious for its dangerous access that resulted in the death of some pilgrims. At low tide it is encompassed by sand banks, and at high tide it is surrounded by water. Accessing the island was a cause for fear.

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Courageous And Consistent

While reading the obituary of Eugene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960 to 1968, I was struck by two things. First, for many years Patterson was a fearless voice for civil rights during a time when many opposed racial equality. In addition, he wrote a column every day for 8 years. That’s 2,922 newspaper columns! Day after day, year after year. Courage and consistency were key factors in the impact of his life.

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Divine Perspective

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

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The Work Of Our Hands

Spring had just turned into summer and crops were beginning to produce fruit as our train rolled across the fertile landscape of West Michigan’s shoreline. Strawberries had ripened, and people were kneeling in the morning dew to pick the sweet fruit. Blueberry bushes were soaking up sunshine from the sky and nutrients from the earth.

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Looking For Zacchaeus

Alf Clark walks the city streets looking for Zacchaeus. Well, not the actual one in the Bible—Jesus already found him. Alf and some friends who serve with an urban ministry do what Jesus did in Luke 19. They go purposefully through town to meet with and help those in need.

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He Calls The Stars By Name

On a plateau high above the Atacama Desert in Chile, the world’s largest radio telescope is giving astronomers a view of the universe never seen before. In an Associated Press article, Luis Andres Henao spoke of scientists from many countries “looking for clues about the dawn of the cosmos—from the coldest gases and dust where galaxies are formed and stars are born to the energy produced by the Big Bang.”

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Waving The White Flag

Recently, while watching a video of a church service held in South America, I noticed something I had never seen before in church. As the pastor passionately called his flock to yield their lives to Jesus, one of the parishioners took a white hankie out of his pocket and started waving it in the air. Then another, and another. With tears running down their cheeks, they were expressing full surrender to Christ.

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Lasting Regrets

While I was talking with a gifted pianist, she asked me if I played any musical instruments. When I responded, “I play the radio,” she laughed and asked if I had ever wanted to play any instrument. My embarrassed answer was, “I took piano lessons as a boy but gave it up.” Now, in my adult years, I regret not continuing with the piano. I love music and wish I could play today. That conversation was a fresh reminder to me that life is often constituted by the choices we make—and some of them produce regret.

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Water For The World

Although 70 percent of the world is covered by water, less than 1 percent of it is drinkable by humans. Water conservation and sanitation are crucial matters in many parts of the world, as all life depends on having sanitary water.

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Small Ways In Small Places

Often I meet with people who serve in what they think are seemingly small ways in small places. They are frequently discouraged by loneliness, feeling that their acts of service are insignificant. When I hear them speak, I think of one of the angels in C. S. Lewis’ book Out of the Silent Planet. He said: “My people have a law never to speak of sizes or numbers to you. . . . It makes you do reverence to nothings and pass by what is really great.”

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Whoppers Or Adventures?

My grandfather loved to tell stories, and I loved to listen. Papaw had two kinds of tales. “Whoppers” were stories with a whiff of truth, but which changed with each new telling. “Adventures” were stories that really happened, and the facts never changed when retold. One day my grandfather told a story that just seemed too far-fetched to be true. “Whopper,” I declared, but my grandfather insisted it was true. Although his telling never varied, I simply couldn’t believe it, it was that unusual.

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Living Bridges

People who live in Cherrapunji, India, have developed a unique way to get across the many rivers and streams in their land. They grow bridges from the roots of rubber trees. These “living bridges” take between 10 to 15 years to mature, but once they are established, they are extremely stable and last for hundreds of years.

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Lookin’ Good!

After trying on my new sunglasses in the car one day, my daughter handed them back and said, “These are not sunglasses, Mom. They’re just fashion lenses. Let me guess,” she teased, “you bought them because you look cute in them.”

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Feeling Chained?

Boethius lived in sixth-century Italy and served the royal court as a highly skilled politician. Unfortunately, he fell into disfavor with the king. He was accused of treason and imprisoned. While awaiting execution, he asked for writing materials so he could compose his reflections. Later, these became an enduring spiritual classic on consolation.

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True Loyalty

By one estimate, more than 14 trillion frequent-flyer miles have been accumulated by people worldwide. It all started in the early 1980s, when airlines began the first frequent-flyer programs to encourage repeat business by rewarding customers for their loyalty. Accumulated miles could be redeemed for free travel, goods, and services, so it wasn’t long before people began planning their travel based as much on personal reward as on price or schedule.

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Grain On The Mountaintop

I’ve been on a number of mountaintops in the US in my time, and I can tell you that not much grows up there. The summits of mountains are bare rock and lichen. That’s not where you would normally find an abundance of grain.

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“No Grace”

I have nicknamed our car “No Grace.” Sunday mornings are the worst. I load the car with all the stuff I need for church, get myself in my seat, close the door, and Jay starts backing out of the garage. While I am still getting settled, the seat belt warning starts buzzing. “Please,” I say to it, “all I need is another minute.” The answer, apparently, is no, because it continues buzzing until I am buckled in.

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